Update: Tornado watch expanded, extended into east-central Mississippi until 6 p.m. Thursday including Smith, Newton, Neshoba, Lauderdale, Lamar, Kemper, Jones, Jasper, Forrest, Covington and Clarke counties.
Much of southern Mississippi have the misfortune of being placed under the first U.S. tornado watches of 2013 as a slow-moving storm system impacts the region.
The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) issued two tornado watches early Thursday for southern Mississippi, extending into the early afternoon.
The first tornado watch was issued for Wilkinson, Jefferson, Franklin, Amite and Adams counties until 12 p.m.
The second tornado watch was issued to replace and expand the first watch further eastward until 2 p.m. including Smith, Simpson, Marion, Lincoln, Lawrence, Lamar, Jones, Jefferson Davis, Jasper, Forrest, Covington, Copiah, Claiborne, Jefferson, Franklin, Harrison, Hancock, Pearl River, Walthall, Pike and Adams counties.
The SPC says the probability of at least two or more tornadoes within the watch areas is at 40 percent.
An embedded line of thunderstorms on the leading edge of a mass of heavy rain over south-central Louisiana is showing signs of intensification as it slowly progresses to the east and northeast and with a unusually warm and very moist air mass in place combined with sufficient shear, could spawn isolated tornadoes and damaging winds.
"Overall setup suggests a possibly increasing risk for embedded rotating structures capable of tornadoes/locally damaging winds as the squall-line develops farther north northeastward and moves generally east northeastward through later this morning," the SPC said.
While there is the possibility of tornadoes and damaging winds, the greatest threat is flooding with many areas having already received several inches of rainfall since early Wednesday and over the last week.
With additional heavy rain moving over already saturated ground, flash flood problems are likely.
A flash flood watch is in effect including portions of southern and southwestern Mississippi through Thursday evening for an additional two to three inches of rainfall with locally higher amounts.
It is possible the tornado and flash flood watches could be expanded further east and northeast across portions of the state as this storm system moves through later on Thursday into Thursday night.
Everyone is strongly advised to stay updated on the latest weather information as it becomes available.
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